Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mongrels in the Night By Frank Cynatra

Mongrels in the night, exchanging curses
Wondering in the night
What were the chances, Cockerel would crow
Before our sleep was through?

Something in the air, was so enticing
That all the area’s mutts came a-sprinting
Something in my brain
Told me I must (not) shoot you

Mongrels in the night, few raucous pooches
Sparring in the night
Upto the moment
That eye we closed,
Little did we know
Sleep was just a million miles away
Seven noisy, fighting dogs away

Every single night, we’ve been together
Partners till daylight, captives forever
Listening to the fights
Of mongrels in the night!

P.S. If you are sleep-deprived enough, you can sing this to Frank S’s "Strangers in the Night"
P.P.S. These are not my friendly neighborhood Mutt & Moron

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Yesterday when I was speaking to my mother, she recounted this incident which happened recently to a family-friend’s daughter – T.

I have known T since she was about 3 or 4. She was a pretty child and has grown up to be a pretty young woman – she must be about 21 or so now. T enrolled in a hotel management course, finished it successfully and ended up at a very well known, 5-star hotel in North India (immediately after internship in Mumbai).

So far, so good.

Apparently, she had the mischance to catch the eye of some rich baap-ka-beta, who along with three other friends started stalking T. Obviously rich baap-ka-beta who floats around in 5-7 star hotels, WOULD assume that all the employees of the hotel are some sort of private property and all the girls who work in the hotel, a private harem.
These four gentlemen, started haunting the hotel and following T. So much so, that they were planning to kidnap her.

Fortunately before they could actually succeed in the plan (I am not sure whether they bungled it, or were still planning) - in what would surely have ended up as a rape, if not murder, T managed to alert her parents who promptly dropped everything and went and brought her home.

T apparently ended up so traumatized that she had a nervous breakdown – she was too scared to move out of her house or even look or speak to anyone. Hotel management, which she has trained in, was of course immediately dropped.

So a potential Jessica Lal disaster was averted. However it wouldn’t have been Jessica Lal media hype – but a quiet tragedy which would make news for maybe two days and be forgotten by everyone, but the people who know her.

So what does this mean for people like us? The ordinary girls from the upper-middle-class homes, just trying to live their lives quietly, with dignity.

One oft heard statement is that “Girls from ‘good homes’ should not put themselves in ‘situations like this’.

What situations?

Should pretty girls make themselves ugly so that they don’t catch someone’s fancy?

Should they just wear a chador while going down the roads?

Is one not supposed to work in preferred field of choice, watch a late-night-movie, take an evening walk , travel alone because it might be those kind of ‘situations’? (after that Wipro girl’s rape- Every single time I go to Bombay alone in a car (which is quite often), Ma and S worry until I reach the other city safely. I find that stifling – but I can’t really blame them for the concern).

Where all is one supposed to protect oneself from?

The rich-baap-ka-betas however don’t have any restrictions about situations ‘like that’. Daddies-dear will of course come and say that the concerned girl was a slut who was just begging to be raped and their poor-sons-who-wouldn’t-hurt-flies-just-obliged-out-of-the-goodness-of-their-hearts.

When will industrialists and politicians sons learn that they are not a law unto themselves?

When will their fathers (who have often vowed to protect the masses) stop protecting the sons at any cost and make them accountable for their misdemeanours?

Will there ever be a ‘situation’ that half the population can go out, live independently, breathe freely secure in the knowledge that they are safe from people 'like that'?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Face off

The other day the boss came out to my workstation and stood there discussing some work.

As he was talking, a fleeting thought, that he looked a tad different did cross my mind- but I shrugged it off as a haircut or something.

During a pause in the conversation, he turned to me and asked me “So, what do you think of my new look”

Okay. So apparently it was NOT a haircut. Something dramatic. But WHAT? Time to tread carefully!

“, you ARE looking a bit different.. er..what did you do?”

‘I shaved off my beard? Didn’t you notice?’

Ah yes. Now that he mentioned it, he did have some foliage on his chin (or did he?)

Feebly offered a “Well, at least the husband will be happy I don’t look at other men’s faces”

One icy (“We are not amused”) look and he was gone.

A little later, me, in my best bhatakti atma mode drifted into his cabin.

(Now, I have to spend a couple of lines discussing the bhatakti atma mode of mine. The closest analogy I can think off is being high on alcohol – the same sort of delightful irresponsibility and buzz in the head (minus the delightful part of it). Bosses have been known to pat me on my head and send me home to sleep it off. One can recognize this stage by a particularly vacuous, lost look in the eyes and the tendency to shoot off ones mouth without remembering the diktat that discretion is the better part of valour (quite like alcohol in fact) )

So anyways, I drift into the cabin and say “Did you really, REALLY have a beard? I can’t for the life of me remember what you looked like. Can you show a snap to prove it?”

'PROVE IT’? What prove it? My feet, someone please pull them out of my mouth. WHAT was I thinking????

Now why does this happen? Here is a man, who I have spent the significant part of last year looking at -not voluntarily, not because it gives me an aesthetic pleasure, but because I have to. By this time I should have known each and every wrinkle (hope he never reads this heheh) by heart. However, the sad reality is that – if I don’t see him for a fortnight, it’s not improbable that I forget what he looks like.

I seem to have this fundamental, congenital inability to remember faces.

I get into lifts and have people gushing at me, and I have been known to ask them who they are. When people smile at me in office corridors I have to resort to these immensely complicated calculations to arrive at their identity (ok-if-xyz-is-coming-out-of-abc’s-cabin (which-has-the-name-plate-thank-god)-who-seems-to-be-xyz’s-boss-viola-xyz-must-pqr). I have made acquaintances wait outside the door for fifteen minutes till my mother came and kicked me for not letting so-and-so uncle-who-used-to-know-me-before-I-was-born into the house. In college, I had a reputation of being an incurable shutterbug; my friends didn’t realise that it was less about preserving nostalgic memories for posterity, but more as a future reference for my appalling memory.

And the truth is, I can’t even blame it entirely on my memory –I can remember absolutely useless trivia about people – their allergies and ex-boyfriends telephone numbers, birthdays of their aunts. Anything- but faces!

I cannot blame it on ageing either – have had this problem ever since I can recall. In fact, my parents had a long-running joke (which I did NOT find very funny) on how I would fail to recognize them on the street after a month’s gap or so.

I have tried Jumpin Jeetu’s memory plus, have devised series of memory enhancing mnemonics’ which while entertaining (so-and-so has a face-like-a-rabbit), do not provide any discernible help in practise. So the only solution I have is to paste this idiotic smile on my face every time I see anyone (known, unknown, familiar, unfamiliar) and depending upon the other persons reaction (a reciprocated smile or a blank-why-is-this-vague-femme-grinning-at-me look) arrive at some sort of conclusion.

I take hope from one of my aunts. Soon after their engagement was formalized, my uncle went to her house to take her out to the chowpati (Aka Amol Palekar in countless movies). My aunt opened the door, looked at him blankly while my poor, embarrassed uncle (who was under the impression that his fiancĂ©e WOULD recognize him) stood there tongue tied, then went up to her father to tell him that “There is some strange man at the doorstep – I think he wants to sell something”

Thank God most offices have those dog-collar-identity tags these days.

P.S. For the record, I did go and check the boss’ snap later and realized that his beard had covered 3/4th of his face. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ice, Ice, Baby!

Every morning, before leaving for office, I pack my survival kit for the corporate jungle – my thick pullover, one shawl and a pair of socks. I would have also added some mufflers and thermal wear if I had them.

Why this extreme bundling up one may ask – is the office on some glacier in some northern fjord? Well, not exactly. The postal address is very much in equatorial heartland of Pune.
But if one walks into it the office, one might be forgiven for thinking one has inadvertently traipsed into Siberia.

The cold that hits you like an electric jolt could be one such hint, not to mention the almost immediate loss of all feeling in all the body’s extremities.
Another could be the vision of people bundled up in mufflers and monkey caps trying to warm their blue-tinged hands on hot-water bottles.
Or the sound of teeth chattering in symphonic accompaniment to the keyboard.
The almost constant taste of the-apology-for-coffee as people swig in gallon-fulls in lieu of more congenial heat-inducing-liquids.
Of perhaps, you might notice the unique not-so-pleasant odour of a mixture of moth-balls and woollens.

Why is our office a prototype for sub-zero Antarctica one might wonder. Well, the very senior management has east –facing cabins with massive windows. They claim that the rooms (and consequently the office) are unbearably hot. Many of them also come to work in woollen suits and safaris.

Did I mention that they are very senior management?

So as people who sit on the west side of the office and don’t have east facing windows or heavy-duty designations and are very accommodating in nature ( I did say very senior management, didn’t I?) , we allow the air conditioner temperature to be set at ‘pleasantly cool’ temperatures.

Maybe lesser flunkies like us do not have the hot-blooded passion that differentiates the well, men from the boys. Hmmm.

Now if you will excuse me, I will go and thaw my frostbitten nose under the hand drier in the washroom.